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Publication numberUS20070233868 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/395,510
Publication dateOct 4, 2007
Filing dateMar 31, 2006
Priority dateMar 31, 2006
Also published asEP2002327A2, WO2007120524A2, WO2007120524A3
Publication number11395510, 395510, US 2007/0233868 A1, US 2007/233868 A1, US 20070233868 A1, US 20070233868A1, US 2007233868 A1, US 2007233868A1, US-A1-20070233868, US-A1-2007233868, US2007/0233868A1, US2007/233868A1, US20070233868 A1, US20070233868A1, US2007233868 A1, US2007233868A1
InventorsJohn Tyrrell, Peter Smoot, Konstantinos Roussos
Original AssigneeTyrrell John C, Smoot Peter L, Konstantinos Roussos
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for intelligent provisioning of storage across a plurality of storage systems
US 20070233868 A1
Abstract
A system and method for intelligently provisions storage among a plurality of storage systems. A flexible storage manager (FSM) executing within a storage system environment manages the intelligent provisioning of storage. The FSM sorts an ordered list of data containers within the storage system environment according to a predefined list of criteria to find a highest ranked aggregate. Requested storage is then provisioned on the highest ranked aggregate by the FSM.
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Claims(20)
1. A method for intelligently provisioning storage, the method comprising the steps of:
identifying a set of data containers for use in provisioning requested storage;
sorting the identified set of data containers to identify a highest ranked data container; and
automatically provisioning the requested storage on the highest ranked data container.
2. The method of claim 1 further comprising the steps of:
determining if a failure occurred during the automatic provisioning;
in response to determining that a failure occurred during the automatic provisioning, selecting a next highest ranked data container from the sorted set of data containers; and
provisioning the requested storage on the next highest ranked data container.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein the data containers comprise aggregates.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of sorting the data containers comprises the step of sorting the data containers by level of activity directed to the data containers.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of sorting the data containers comprises the step of sorting the data containers by amount of free space available on each data container.
6. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of sorting the data containers comprises the step of sorting the data containers by a performance characteristic of the data containers.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein the performance characteristic of the data containers comprises a type of data connection.
8. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of sorting the data containers comprises the step of sorting the data containers by a performance characteristic of a storage system serving the data container.
9. A system configured to implement intelligent provisioning of storage, the system comprising:
one or more storage systems, each of the one or more storage systems having a plurality of storage devices connected thereto;
a flexible storage manager operatively interconnected with the one or more storage systems, the flexible storage manager adapted to intelligently provision storage.
10. The system of claim 9 wherein the flexible storage manager is further adapted to sort a set of data containers associated with the one or more storage systems to identify a highest ranked data container.
11. The system of claim 10 wherein the flexible storage manager is further adapted to automatically provision the requested storage on the highest ranked data container.
12. The system of claim 9 wherein the data containers comprise aggregates.
13. A system adapted to intelligently provision storage, the system comprising:
means for identifying a set of data containers for use in provisioning requested storage;
means for sorting the identified set of data containers to identify a highest ranked data container; and
means for automatically provisioning the requested storage on the highest ranked data container.
14. The system of claim 13 further comprising:
means for determining if a failure occurred during the automatic provisioning:
in response to determining that a failure occurred during the automatic provisioning, means for selecting a next highest ranked data container from the sorted set of data containers; and
means for provisioning the requested storage on the next highest ranked data container.
15. The system of claim 13 wherein the data containers comprise aggregates.
16. The system of claim 13 wherein the means for sorting the data containers comprises means for sorting the data containers by level of activity directed to the data containers.
17. The system of claim 13 wherein the means for sorting the data containers comprises means for sorting the data containers by amount of free space available on each data container.
18. The system of claim 13 wherein means for of sorting the data containers comprises means for sorting the data containers by a performance characteristic of the data containers.
19. The system of claim 13 wherein the means for sorting the data containers comprises means for sorting the data containers by a performance characteristic of a storage system serving the data container.
20. A computer readable medium for intelligently provisioning storage, the computer readable medium including program instructions for performing the steps of:
identifying a set of data containers for use in provisioning requested storage;
sorting the identified set of data containers to identify a highest ranked data container; and
automatically provisioning the requested storage on the highest ranked data container.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The present invention is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ (Atty. Docket No. 112056-0251), titled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR IMPLEMENTING A FLEXIBLE STORAGE MANAGER WITH THRESHOLD CONTROL, by John Tyrrell, et al, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to storage management and, more specifically, to storage management with intelligent provisioning across a plurality of storage systems.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A storage system typically comprises one or more storage devices into which information may be entered, and from which information may be obtained, as desired. The storage system includes a storage operating system that functionally organizes the system by, inter alia, invoking storage operations in support of a storage service implemented by the system. The storage system may be implemented in accordance with a variety of storage architectures including, but not limited to, a network-attached storage (NAS) environment, a storage area network (SAN) and a disk assembly directly attached to a client or host computer, i.e., direct attached storage (DAS). The storage devices are typically disk drives organized as a disk array, wherein the term “disk” commonly describes a self-contained rotating magnetic media storage device. The term disk in this context is synonymous with hard disk drive (HDD) or direct access storage device (DASD).

Storage of information on the disk array is preferably implemented as one or more storage “volumes” of physical disks, defining an overall logical arrangement of disk space. The disks within a volume are typically organized as one or more groups, wherein each group may be operated as a Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks (RAID). Most RAID implementations enhance the reliability/integrity of data storage through the redundant writing of data “stripes” across a given number of physical disks in the RAID group, and the appropriate storing of redundant information (parity) with respect to the striped data. The physical disks of each RAID group may include disks configured to store striped data (i.e., data disks) and disks configured to store parity for the data (i.e., parity disks). The parity may thereafter be retrieved to enable recovery of data lost when a disk fails. The term “RAID” and its various implementations are well-known and disclosed in A Case for Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID), by D. A. Patterson, G. A. Gibson and R. H. Katz, Proceedings of the International Conference on Management of Data (SIGMOD), June 1988.

The storage operating system of the storage system may implement a high-level module, such as a file system, to logically organize the information stored on the disks as a hierarchical structure of named data containers, such as directories, files and blocks. For example, each “on-disk” file may be implemented as set of data structures, i.e., disk blocks, configured to store information, such as the actual data for the file. These data blocks are organized within a volume block number (vbn) space that is maintained by the file system. The file system organizes the data blocks within the vbn space as a “logical volume”; each logical volume may be, although is not necessarily, associated with its own file system. The file system typically consists of a contiguous range of vbns from zero to n, for a file system of size n+1 blocks.

A known type of file system is a write-anywhere file system that does not overwrite data on disks. If a data block is retrieved (read) from disk into a memory of the storage system and “dirtied” (i.e., updated or modified) with new data, the data block is thereafter stored (written) to a new location on disk to optimize write performance. A write-anywhere file system may initially assume an optimal layout such that the data is substantially contiguously arranged on disks. The optimal disk layout results in efficient access operations, particularly for sequential read operations, directed to the disks. An example of a write-anywhere file system that is configured to operate on a storage system is the Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL®) file system available from Network Appliance, Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif.

The storage system may be configured to operate according to a client/server model of information delivery to thereby allow many clients to access the directories, files and blocks stored on the system. In this model, the client may comprise an application, such as a database application, executing on a computer that “connects” to the storage system over a computer network, such as a point-to-point link, shared local area network, wide area network or virtual private network implemented over a public network, such as the Internet. Each client may request the services of the file system by issuing file system protocol messages (in the form of packets) to the storage system over the network. By supporting a plurality of file system protocols, such as the conventional Common Internet File System (CIFS) and the Network File System (NFS) protocols, the utility of the storage system is enhanced.

Typically, the amount of data managed by a storage system continually grows at prodigious rates. However, the number of people (e.g. storage administrators) managing storage generally does not grow at the same rate due to increased human resource cost. This results in additional workload for the storage administrators, especially in enterprise level storage installations. One noted disadvantage of many storage system environments is that conventional techniques for storage provisioning are inefficient both in human capital and in unused but allocated storage space. A typical provisioning process begins with a user estimating his storage needs and making a personal request to a storage administrator to create a logical unit number (LUN) of a certain size. While this description is written in terms of LUNs, the same procedure applies to requests for storage in NAS space, e.g., a NFS volume. Once the request has been approved by e.g., management, the storage administrator must find an appropriate array with sufficient space and within the zoning constraints of the overall storage system environment. After any particular zoning issues have been decided, the storage administrator then must choose a storage system within the constraints and create the appropriate LUN. This may require the storage administrator to first create a volume and then create, e.g., a virtual disk on the volume to be exported as the LUN.

Once these decisions have been made, the LUN may be exported to a host computer (client), which may then mount the LUN for access. There is typically no follow up to ensure that the requested space is actually being utilized. A noted disadvantage of current storage provisioning techniques is that most storage is less than 35% utilized, which results in a subtotal industry loss, estimated at e.g., $20 billion per year. This wasted storage space is the result of users overestimating their actual storage needs and requesting extraneous space from the storage administrators.

Additionally, users may desire differing levels of service (LOS) associated with requested storage. For example, a user desiring storage for streaming video typically requires faster data access times than a user requiring storage for archival purposes. Furthermore, there may be cases wherein a particular type of storage is available, but is serviced by a storage system that is heavily overloaded, i.e., servicing a large number of data access requests, thereby resulting in an overall slower data access time. Thus, to make an accurate provisioning of storage due to the dynamic nature of storage system utilization, the storage administrator must determine the appropriate utilization levels of each storage system supporting each particular piece storage. This further complicates the storage administrator functions.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention overcomes the disadvantages of the prior art by providing a system and method for intelligent provisioning of storage across a plurality of storage systems. A flexible storage manager (FSM) manages provisioning of storage for users to thereby enable greater storage utilization. The FSM is illustratively implemented as one or more software models executing on a computer within a storage system environment and having a user interface that facilitates interaction with a user. The FSM organizes storage devices associated with a single storage system and having the same performance characteristics into a logical construct called a “storage group” and further organizes storage groups having identical performance characteristics across storage systems into logical constructs called “storage pools.” Notably, the use of storage pools and storage groups eliminates the need for a storage administrator to locate an appropriate extent of space to be formed when processing storage for the user.

In order to provision storage, the user first logs into the FSM and requests storage space. The user then specifies an amount (a size) of desired space, a format, such as a logical unit number (LUN) or NFS share, and, optionally, a level of service (LOS) for the storage. Thus, for example, the user may specify a need for a high LOS for certain storage, e.g., streaming video, whereas another user may specify a low LOS, for e.g., archival/backup operations. The FSM illustratively provisions the storage by dynamically load-balancing storage and data access requests across all of the storage systems within the storage system environment and further selects storage having suitable performance characteristics that meet the desired LOS.

Illustratively, the FSM first identifies all available data containers on which the storage may be provisioned. The data containers are then sorted so that those data containers in certain special modes are moved to the bottom of a sorted list. The FSM then sorts the data containers by the capability of the storage system serving the data container and by the performance level of the physical storage comprising the data container. Illustratively, the data containers are sorted by free space and by current level of activity directed thereto. The FSM then selects the highest ranked data container and provisions the request storage on the selected data container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above and further advantages of the invention may be better understood by referring to the following description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which like reference numerals indicate identical or functionally similar elements:

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary network storage system environment showing a flexible storage manager (FSM) in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary storage system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary storage operating system for use on a storage system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 it is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary inode in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary buffer tree in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary buffer tree in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a schematic block diagram of an aggregate in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a schematic block diagram of an on-disk structure of an aggregate and flexible volume in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary thinly provisioned data container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary thinly provisioned data container after a first write operation in accordance with embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary thinly provisioned data container after a second write operation in accordance with and bought in the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary thinly provisioned data container after it has been fully written in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a schematic block diagram showing the assignment of sets of similarly storage devices having the same performance characteristics to storage groups in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a schematic block diagram showing the assignment of storage groups having the same performance characteristics from a plurality of storage systems to storage pools in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15 is a flowchart detailing the steps of an exemplary procedure for provisioning storage space in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 16 is a flowchart detailing the steps of a procedure for provisioning storage in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENT

A. Storage System Environment

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary storage system environment 100 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The storage system environment 100 comprises one or more storage systems 200A, B operatively interconnected with one or more storage devices 120, such as disks. A network 105 connects each storage system 200 with one or more clients 110. Also connected to the network 105 is a computer 115 executing a flexible storage manager (FSM) 117 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

The FSM 117 comprises a plurality of modules including a user interface module (UI) 121 that includes a command line interface (CLI) 123 and/or a graphical user interface (GUI) 125. A provisioning module 129 permits the intelligent provisioning of storage using storage pools and/or storage groups, as described further below. A configuration table 131 stores information relating to the assignment of aggregates to storage groups and storage pools, described further below. The FSM is illustratively implemented as one or more software modules executing on a computer within the storage system environment. However, in alternate embodiments, the functionality of the FSM may be integrated with a storage system 200 or a storage operating system 300 executing on a storage system. As such, the description of a FSM executing on a separate computer within the storage system environment should be taken as exemplary only.

B. Storage System

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an illustrative storage system 200 that may be advantageously used with the present invention. The storage system is configured to provide storage service for both file and block protocol access to information stored on storage devices in an integrated manner. In this context, the storage system denotes a computer having features such as simplicity of storage service management and ease of storage reconfiguration, including reusable storage space, for users (system administrators) and clients of network attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) deployments. It should be noted that a single storage system may support both NAS and SAN simultaneously. An example of such a storage system is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/215,917, entitled MULTI-PROTOCOL STORAGE APPLIANCE THAT PROVIDES INTEGRATED SUPPORT FOR FILE AND BLOCK ACCESS PROTOCOLS, by Brian Pawlowski, et al., the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

The storage system 200 is illustratively embodied as a storage appliance comprising a processor 222, a memory 224, a plurality of network adapters 225, 226 and a storage adapter 228 interconnected by a system bus 232. Note, the terms “storage system” and “storage appliance” may be used interchangeably herein. The storage appliance also includes a storage operating system 300 that provides a virtualization system (and, in particular, a file system) to logically organize the information as a hierarchical structure of named data containers, such as directory, file and virtual disk (vdisk) storage objects on storage devices, such as disks.

The clients of a SAN-based network environment have a storage viewpoint of blocks or disks. To that end, the storage system 200 presents (exports) disks to SAN clients through the creation of logical unit numbers (LUNs) or vdisk objects. A vdisk object (hereinafter “vdisk”) is a special file type that is implemented by the virtualization system and translated into an emulated disk as viewed by the SAN clients. The storage system thereafter makes these emulated disks accessible to the SAN clients through controlled exports.

In the illustrative embodiment, the memory 224 comprises storage locations that are addressable by the processor and adapters for storing software program code and data structures associated with the present invention. A portion of memory 224 may be organized as a “buffer cache” for storing data structures for use by the storage operating system during runtime operation. The processor and adapters may, in turn, comprise processing elements and/or logic circuitry configured to execute the software code and manipulate the data structures. The storage operating system 300, portions of which are typically resident in memory and executed by the processing elements, functionally organizes the storage appliance by, inter alia, invoking storage operations in support of the storage service implemented by the appliance. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that other processing and memory means, including various computer readable media, may be used for storing and executing program instructions pertaining to the invention described herein.

The network adapter 225 may comprise a network interface controller (NIC) that couples the storage appliance to a plurality of clients over point-to-point links, wide area networks, virtual private networks implemented over a public network (Internet) or a shared local area network. The NIC comprises the mechanical, electrical and signaling circuitry needed to connect the appliance to a network.

The storage network “target” adapter 226 also couples the storage appliance to clients that may be further configured to access the stored information as blocks or disks. The network target adapter 226 may comprise a FC host bus adapter (HBA) having the mechanical, electrical and signaling circuitry needed to connect the appliance to a SAN network switch. In addition to providing FC access, the FC HBA may offload fibre channel network processing operations for the storage appliance.

The storage adapter 228 cooperates with the storage operating system 300 executing on the storage appliance to access information requested by the clients. The information may be stored on disks or other similar media adapted to store information. The storage adapter includes I/O interface circuitry that couples to the disks 120 over an I/O interconnect arrangement, such as a conventional high-performance, FC serial link topology. The information is retrieved by the storage adapter and, if necessary, processed by the processor 222 (or the adapter 228 itself) prior to being forwarded over the system bus 223 to the network adapters 225, 226, where the information is formatted into packets or messages and returned to the clients.

Storage of information on the storage system 200 is preferably implemented as one or more storage volumes that comprise a cluster of physical storage disks 120, defining an overall logical arrangement of disk space. The disks within a volume are typically organized as one or more groups of Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks (RAID). RAID implementations enhance the reliability/integrity of data storage through the writing of data “stripes” across a given number of physical disks in the RAID group, and the appropriate storing of redundant information with respect to the striped data. The redundant information enables recovery of data lost when a storage device fails.

One or more virtual disks (vdisks) may be stored within each volume. A vdisk is a special file type in a volume that derives from a plain (regular) file, but that has associated export controls and operation restrictions that support emulation of a disk. In the illustrative embodiment, a vdisk is a multi-inode object comprising a special file inode and a set of stream inodes that are managed as a single, encapsulated storage object within the file system of the storage system. As used herein, a set of stream inodes denotes one or more stream inodes. The vdisk illustratively manifests as an embodiment of a stream inode that, in cooperation with the special file inode, creates a new type of file storage object having the capacity to encapsulate specific security, management and addressing (export) information. A vdisk is, thus, an encapsulated data container comprising a data section and one or more metadata sections that may be stored in streams associated with the data section. An example of a stream inode object that may be advantageously used with the present invention is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,643,654 titled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR REPRESENTING NAMED DATA STREAMS WITHIN AN ON-DISK STRUCTURE OF A FILE SYSTEM, by Kayuri Patel et al., which is hereby incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein.

B. Storage Operating System

To facilitate access to the disks, the storage operating system 300 implements a write-anywhere file system that cooperates with virtualization modules to provide a function that “virtualizes” the storage space provided by disks. The file system logically organizes the information as a hierarchical structure of named directory and file objects (hereinafter “directories” and “files”) on the disks. Each “on-disk” file may be implemented as set of disk blocks configured to store information, such as data, whereas the directory may be implemented as a specially formatted file in which names and links to other files and directories are stored. The virtualization system allows the file system to further logically organize information as a hierarchical structure of named vdisks on the disks, thereby providing an integrated NAS and SAN appliance approach to storage by enabling file-based (NAS) access to the files and directories, while further enabling block-based (SAN) access to the vdisks on a file-based storage platform.

In the illustrative embodiment, the storage operating system is preferably the NetApp® Data ONTAP® operating system available from Network Appliance, Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif. that implements a Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL®) file system. However, it is expressly contemplated that any appropriate storage operating system, including a write in-place file system, may be enhanced for use in accordance with the inventive principles described herein. As such, where the term “ONTAP” is employed, it should be taken broadly to refer to any storage operating system that is otherwise adaptable to the teachings of this invention.

As used herein, the term “storage operating system” generally refers to the computer-executable code operable on a computer that manages data access and may, in the case of a multi-protocol storage appliance, implement data access semantics, such as the Data ONTAP storage operating system, which is implemented as a microkernel. The storage operating system can also be implemented as an application program operating over a general-purpose operating system, such as UNIX®) or Windows XP®, or as a general-purpose operating system with configurable functionality, which is configured for storage applications as described herein.

In addition, it will be understood to those skilled in the art that the inventive technique described herein may apply to any type of special-purpose (e.g., storage serving appliance) or general-purpose computer, including a standalone computer or portion thereof, embodied as or including a storage system. Moreover, the teachings of this invention can be adapted to a variety of storage system architectures including, but not limited to, a network-attached storage environment, a storage area network and disk assembly directly-attached to a client or host computer. The term “storage system” should therefore be taken broadly to include such arrangements in addition to any subsystems configured to perform a storage function and associated with other equipment or systems.

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram of the storage operating system 300 that may be advantageously used with the present invention. The storage operating system comprises a series of software layers organized to form an integrated network protocol stack or, more generally, a multi-protocol engine that provides data paths for clients to access information stored on the multi-protocol storage appliance using block and file access protocols. The protocol stack includes a media access layer 310 of network drivers (e.g., gigabit Ethernet drivers) that interfaces to network protocol layers, such as the IP layer 312 and its supporting transport mechanisms, the TCP layer 314 and the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) layer 316. A file system protocol layer provides multi-protocol file access and, to that end, includes support for the DAFS protocol 318, the NFS protocol 320, the CWFS protocol 322 and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) protocol 324. A VI layer 326 implements the VI architecture to provide direct access transport (DAT) capabilities, such as RDMA, as required by the DAFS protocol 318.

An iSCSI driver layer 328 provides block protocol access over the TCP/IP network protocol layers, while a FC driver layer 330 operates with the FC HBA 226 to receive and transmit block access requests and responses to and from the integrated storage appliance. The FC and iSCSI drivers provide FC-specific and iSCSI-specific access control to the LUNs (vdisks) and, thus, manage exports of vdisks to either iSCSI or FCP or, alternatively, to both iSCSI and FCP when accessing a single vdisk on the multi-protocol storage appliance. In addition, the storage operating system includes a disk storage layer 340 that implements a disk storage protocol, such as a RAID protocol, and a disk driver layer 350 that implements a disk access protocol such as, e.g., a SCSI protocol.

Bridging the disk software layers with the integrated network protocol stack layers is a virtualization system 355 that is implemented by a file system 365 interacting with virtualization modules illustratively embodied as, e.g., vdisk module 370 and SCSI target module 360. It should be noted that the vdisk module 370, the file system 365 and SCSI target module 360 can be implemented in software, hardware, firmware, or a combination thereof. The vdisk module 370 interacts with the file system 365 to enable access by administrative interfaces in response to a system administrator issuing commands to the multi-protocol storage appliance 200. In essence, the vdisk module 370 manages SAN deployments by, among other things, implementing a comprehensive set of vdisk (LUN) commands issued through a user interface by a system administrator. These vdisk commands are converted to primitive file system operations (“primitives”) that interact with the file system 365 and the SCSI target module 360 to implement the vdisks.

The SCSI target module 360, in turn, initiates emulation of a disk or LUN by providing a mapping procedure that translates LUNs into the special vdisk file types. The SCSI target module is illustratively disposed between the FC and iSCSI drivers 330, 328 and the file system 365 to thereby provide a translation layer of the virtualization system 355 between the SAN block (LUN) space and the file system space, where LUNs are represented as vdisks. By “disposing” SAN virtualization over the file system 365, the multi-protocol storage appliance reverses the approaches taken by prior systems to thereby provide a single unified storage platform for essentially all storage access protocols.

The file system 365 is illustratively a message-based system; as such, the SCSI target module 360 transposes a SCSI request into a message representing an operation directed to the file system. For example, the message generated by the SCSI target module may include a type of operation (e.g., read, write) along with a pathname (e.g., a path descriptor) and a filename (e.g., a special filename) of the vdisk object represented in the file system. The SCSI target module 360 passes the message into the file system 365 as, e.g., a function call, where the operation is performed.

The file system 365 illustratively implements the WAFL file system having an on-disk format representation that is block-based using, e.g., 4 kilobyte (KB) blocks and using inodes to describe the files. The WAFL file system uses files to store metadata describing the layout of its file system; these metadata files include, among others, an inode file. A file handle, i.e., an identifier that includes an inode number, is used to retrieve an inode from disk. A description of the structure of the file system, including on-disk inodes and the inode file, is provided in the U.S. Pat. No. 5,819,292 entitled METHOD FOR MAINTAINING CONSISTENT STATES OF A FILE SYSTEM AND FOR CREATING USER-ACCESSIBLE READ-ONLY COPIES OF A FILE SYSTEM, by David Hitz, et al, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

Operationally, a request from the client 110 is forwarded as a packet over the computer network 105 and onto the storage system 200 where it is received at the network adapter 225, 226. A network driver processes the packet and, if appropriate, passes it on to a network protocol and file access layer for additional processing prior to forwarding to the write-anywhere file system 365. Here, the file system generates operations to load (retrieve) the requested data from disk 120 if it is not resident “in-core,” i.e., in the buffer cache. If the information is not in the cache, the file system 365 indexes into the inode file using the inode number to access an appropriate entry and retrieve a logical volume block number (vbn). The file system then passes a message structure including the logical vbn to the RAID system 340; the logical vbn is mapped to a disk identifier and disk block number (disk,dbn) and sent to an appropriate driver (e.g., SCSI) of the disk driver system 350. The disk driver accesses the dbn from the specified disk 120 and loads the requested data block(s) in buffer cache for processing by the storage system. Upon completion of the request, the storage system (and operating system) returns a reply to the client 110 over the network 105.

It should be noted that the software “path” through the storage operating system layers described above needed to perform data storage access for the client request received at the storage system may alternatively be implemented in hardware. That is, in an alternate embodiment of the invention, a storage access request data path may be implemented as logic circuitry embodied within a field programmable gate array (FPGA) or an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). This type of hardware implementation increases the performance of the storage service provided by storage system 200 in response to a request issued by client 110. Moreover, in another alternate embodiment of the invention, the processing elements of adapters 225, 226, may be configured to offload some or all of the packet processing and storage access operations, respectively, from processor 222, to thereby increase the performance of the storage service provided by the system. It is expressly contemplated that the various processes, architectures and procedures described herein can be implemented in hardware, firmware or software.

As used herein, the term “storage operating system” generally refers to the computer-executable code operable to perform a storage function in a storage system, e.g., that manages data access and may implement file system semantics. In this sense, the ONTAP software is an example of such a storage operating system implemented as a microkernel and including the file system module to implement file system semantics and manage data access. The storage operating system can also be implemented as an application program operating over a general-purpose operating system, such as UNIX® or Windows XP®, or as a general-purpose operating system with configurable functionality, which is configured for storage applications as described herein.

In addition, it will be understood to those skilled in the art that the inventive technique described herein may apply to any type of special-purpose (e.g., file server, filer or storage appliance) or general-purpose computer, including a standalone computer or portion thereof, embodied as or including a storage system 200. Moreover, the teachings of this invention can be adapted to a variety of storage system architectures including, but not limited to, a network-attached storage environment, a storage area network and disk assembly directly-attached to a client or host computer. The term “storage system” should therefore be taken broadly to include such arrangements in addition to any subsystems configured to perform a storage function and associated with other equipment or systems.

E. File System Organization

In the illustrative embodiment, a data container is represented in the write-anywhere file system as an inode data structure adapted for storage on the disks 120. FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram of an inode 400, which preferably includes a meta-data section 405 and a data section 460. The information stored in the meta-data section 405 of each inode 400 describes the data container (e.g., a file) and, as such, includes the type (e.g., regular, directory, vdisk) 410 of file, its size 415, time stamps (e.g., access and/or modification time) 420 and ownership, i.e., user identifier (UID 425) and group ID (GID 430), of the file. The contents of the data section 460 of each inode may be interpreted differently depending upon the type of file (inode) defined within the type field 410. For example, the data section 460 of a directory inode contains meta-data controlled by the file system, whereas the data section of a regular inode contains file system data. In this latter case, the data section 460 includes a representation of the data associated with the file.

Specifically, the data section 460 of a regular on-disk inode may include file system data or pointers, the latter referencing 4 kB data blocks on disk used to store the file system data. Each pointer is preferably a logical vbn to facilitate efficiency among the file system and the RAID system 340 when accessing the data on disks. Given the restricted size (e.g., 128 bytes) of the inode, file system data having a size that is less than or equal to 64 bytes is represented, in its entirety, within the data section of that inode. However, if the length of the contents of the data container exceeds 64 bytes but less than or equal to 64 kB, then the data section of the inode (e.g., a first level inode) comprises up to 16 pointers, each of which references a 4 kB block of data on the disk.

Moreover, if the size of the data is greater than 64 kB but less than or equal to 64 megabytes (MB), then each pointer in the data section 460 of the inode (e.g., a second level inode) references an indirect block (e.g., a first level L1 block) that contains 1024 pointers, each of which references a 4 kB data block on disk. For file system data having a size greater than 64 MB, each pointer in the data section 460 of the inode (e.g., a third level L3 inode) references a double-indirect block (e.g., a second level L2 block) that contains 1024 pointers, each referencing an indirect (e.g., a first level L1) block. The indirect block, in turn, contains 1024 pointers, each of which references a 4 kB data block on disk. When accessing a file, each block of the file may be loaded from disk 120 into the memory 224.

When an on-disk inode (or block) is loaded from disk 120 into memory 224, its corresponding in-core structure embeds the on-disk structure. For example, the dotted line surrounding the inode 400 indicates the in-core representation of the on-disk inode structure. The in-core structure is a block of memory that stores the on-disk structure plus additional information needed to manage data in the memory (but not on disk). The additional information may include, e.g., a “dirty” bit 470. After data in the inode (or block) is updated/modified as instructed by, e.g., a write operation, the modified data is marked “dirty” using the dirty bit 470 so that the inode (block) can be subsequently “flushed” (stored) to disk. The in-core and on-disk format structures of the WAFL file system, including the inodes and inode file, are disclosed and described in the previously incorporated U.S. Pat. No. 5,819,292 titled METHOD FOR MAINTAINING CONSISTENT STATES OF A FILE SYSTEM AND FOR CREATING USER-ACCESSIBLE READ-ONLY COPIES OF A FILE SYSTEM, by David Hitz, et al., issued on Oct. 6, 1998.

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a buffer tree of a file that may be advantageously used with the present invention. The buffer tree is an internal representation of blocks for a file (e.g., file 500) loaded into the memory 224 and maintained by the write-anywhere file system 365. A root (top-level) inode 502, such as an embedded inode, references indirect (e.g., level 1) blocks 504. Note that there may be additional levels of indirect blocks (e.g., level 2, level 3) depending upon the size of the file. The indirect blocks (and inode) contain pointers 505 that ultimately reference data blocks 506 used to store the actual data of the file. That is, the data of file 500 are contained in data blocks and the locations of these blocks are stored in the indirect blocks of the file. Each level 1 indirect block 504 may contain pointers to as many as 1024 data blocks. According to the “write anywhere” nature of the file system, these blocks may be located anywhere on the disks 130.

A file system layout is provided that apportions an underlying physical volume into one or more virtual volumes (or flexible volume) of a storage system. An example of such a file system layout is described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/836,817 titled EXTENSION OF WRITE ANYWHERE FILE SYSTEM LAYOUT, by John K. Edwards, et al. and assigned to Network Appliance, Inc. The underlying physical volume is an aggregate comprising one or more groups of disks, such as RAID groups. The aggregate has its own physical volume block number (pvbn) space and maintains meta-data, such as block allocation structures, within that pvbn space. Each flexible volume has its own virtual volume block number (vvbn) space and maintains meta-data, such as block allocation structures, within that vvbn space. Each flexible volume is a file system that is associated with a container file; the container file is a file in the aggregate that contains all blocks used by the flexible volume. Moreover, each flexible volume comprises data blocks and indirect blocks that contain block pointers that point at either other indirect blocks or data blocks.

In one embodiment, pvbns are used as block pointers within buffer trees of files (such as file 500) stored in a flexible volume. This “hybrid” flexible volume embodiment involves the insertion of only the pvbn in the parent indirect block (e.g., inode or indirect block). On a read path of a logical volume, a “logical” volume (vol) info block has one or more pointers that reference one or more fsinfo blocks, each of which, in turn, points to an inode file and its corresponding inode buffer tree. The read path on a flexible volume is generally the same, following pvbns (instead of vvbns) to find appropriate locations of blocks; in this context, the read path (and corresponding read performance) of a flexible volume is substantially similar to that of a physical volume. Translation from pvbn-to-disk,dbn occurs at the file system/RAID system boundary of the storage operating system 300.

In an illustrative dual vbn hybrid flexible volume embodiment, both a pvbn and its corresponding vvbn are inserted in the parent indirect blocks in the buffer tree of a file. That is, the pvbn and vvbn are stored as a pair for each block pointer in most buffer tree structures that have pointers to other blocks, e.g., level 1 (L1) indirect blocks, inode file level 0 (L0) blocks. FIG. 6 is a schematic block diagram of an illustrative embodiment of a buffer tree of a data container, such as file 600, that may be advantageously used with the present invention. A root (top-level) inode 602, such as an embedded inode, references indirect (e.g., level 1) blocks 604. Note that there may be additional levels of indirect blocks (e.g., level 2, level 3) depending upon the size of the file. The indirect blocks (and inode) contain pvbn/vvbn pointer pair structures 608 that ultimately reference data blocks 606 used to store the actual data of the file.

The pvbns reference locations on disks of the aggregate, whereas the vvbns reference locations within files of the flexible volume. The use of pvbns as block pointers 608 in the indirect blocks 604 provides efficiencies in the read paths, while the use of vvbn block pointers provides efficient access to required meta-data. That is, when freeing a block of a file, the parent indirect block in the file contains readily available vvbn block pointers, which avoids the latency associated with accessing an owner map to perform pvbn-to-vvbn translations; yet, on the read path, the pvbn is available.

FIG. 7 is a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of an aggregate 700 that may be advantageously used with the present invention. Luns (blocks) 702, directories 704, qtrees 706 and files 708 may be contained within flexible volumes 710, such as dual vbn flexible volumes, that, in turn, are contained within the aggregate 700. The aggregate 700 is illustratively layered on top of the RAID system, which is represented by at least one RAID plex 750 (depending upon whether the storage configuration is mirrored), wherein each plex 750 comprises at least one RAID group 760. Each RAID group further comprises a plurality of disks 730, e.g., one or more data (D) disks and at least one (P) parity disk.

Whereas the aggregate 700 is analogous to a physical volume of a conventional storage system, a flexible volume is analogous to a file within that physical volume. That is, the aggregate 700 may include one or more files, wherein each file contains a flexible volume 710 and wherein the sum of the storage space consumed by the flexible volumes is physically smaller than (or equal to) the size of the overall physical volume. The aggregate utilizes a physical pvbn space that defines a storage space of blocks provided by the disks of the physical volume, while each embedded flexible volume (within a file) utilizes a logical vvbn space to organize those blocks, e.g., as files. Each vvbn space is an independent set of numbers that corresponds to locations within the file, which locations are then translated to dbns on disks. Since the flexible volume 710 is also a logical volume, it has its own block allocation structures (e.g., active, space and summary maps) in its vvbn space.

A container file is a file in the aggregate that contains all blocks used by a flexible volume. The container file is an internal (to the aggregate) feature that supports a flexible volume; illustratively, there is one container file per flexible volume. Similar to a pure logical volume in a file approach, the container file is a hidden file (not accessible to a user) in the aggregate that holds every block in use by the flexible volume. The aggregate includes an illustrative hidden meta-data root directory that contains subdirectories of flexible volumes:
WAFL/fsid/filesystem file, storage label file

Specifically, a physical file system (WAFL) directory includes a subdirectory for each flexible volume in the aggregate, with the name of subdirectory being a file system identifier (fsid) of the flexible volume. Each fsid subdirectory (flexible volume) contains at least two files, a filesystem file and a storage label file. The storage label file is illustratively a 4 kB file that contains meta-data similar to that stored in a conventional raid label. In other words, the storage label file is the analog of a raid label and, as such, contains information about the state of the flexible volume such as, e.g., the name of the flexible volume, a universal unique identifier (uuid) and fsid of the flexible volume, whether it is online, being created or being destroyed, etc.

FIG. 8 is a schematic block diagram of an on-disk representation of an aggregate 800. The storage operating system 300, e.g., the RAID system 340, assembles a physical volume of pvbns to create the aggregate 800, with pvbns 1 and 2 comprising a “physical” volinfo block 802 for the aggregate. The volinfo block 802 contains block pointers to fsinfo blocks 804, each of which may represent a snapshot of the aggregate. Each fsinfo block 804 includes a block pointer to an inode file 806 that contains inodes of a plurality of files, including an owner map 810, an active map 812, a summary map 814 and a space map 816, as well as other special meta-data files. The inode file 806 further includes a root directory 820 and a “hidden” meta-data root directory 830, the latter of which includes a namespace having files related to a flexible volume in which users cannot “see” the files. The hidden meta-data root directory includes the WAFL/fsid/directory structure that contains filesystem file 840 and storage label file 890. Note that root directory 820 in the aggregate is empty; all files related to the aggregate are organized within the hidden meta-data root directory 830.

In addition to being embodied as a container file having level 1 blocks organized as a container map, the filesystem file 840 includes block pointers that reference various file systems embodied as flexible volumes 850. The aggregate 800 maintains these flexible volumes 850 at special reserved inode numbers. Each flexible volume 850 also has special reserved inode numbers within its flexible volume space that are used for, among other things, the block allocation bitmap structures. As noted, the block allocation bitmap structures, e.g., active map 862, summary map 864 and space map 866, are located in each flexible volume.

Specifically, each flexible volume 850 has the same inode file structure/content as the aggregate, with the exception that there is no owner map and no WAFL/fsid/filesystem file, storage label file directory structure in a hidden meta-data root directory 880. To that end, each flexible volume 850 has a volinfo block 852 that points to one or more fsinfo blocks 854, each of which may represent a snapshot, along with the active file system of the flexible volume. Each fsinfo block, in turn, points to an inode file 860 that, as noted, has the same inode structure/content as the aggregate with the exceptions noted above. Each flexible volume 850 has its own inode file 860 and distinct inode space with corresponding inode numbers, as well as its own root (fsid) directory 870 and subdirectories of files that can be exported separately from other flexible volumes.

The storage label file 890 contained within the hidden meta-data root directory 830 of the aggregate is a small file that functions as an analog to a conventional raid label. A raid label includes physical information about the storage system, such as the volume name; that information is loaded into the storage label file 890. Illustratively, the storage label file 890 includes the name 892 of the associated flexible volume 850, the online/offline status 894 of the flexible volume, and other identity and state information 896 of the associated flexible volume (whether it is in the process of being created or destroyed).

F. Thin Provisioning of Data Containers

Certain file systems, including the exemplary WAFL file system include the capability to generate a thinly provisioned data container, wherein the data container is not completely written to disk at the time of its creation. As used herein, the term data container generally refers to a unit of storage for holding data, such as a file system, disk file, volume or a LUN, which is addressable by, e.g., its own unique identification. The storage space required to hold the contents of the thinly provisioned data container on disk has not yet been used. The use of thinly provisioned data container is often utilized in the exemplary file system environment when, for example, a vdisk is initially generated. A user or administrator may generate a vdisk of specified size, for example, 10 gigabytes (GB), which size represents the maximum addressable space of the vdisk. To increase system performance, the file system generally does not write the entire vdisk contents to the disks at the time of creation. Instead, the file system generates a thinly provisioned data container (i.e., file) representing the vdisk. The thinly provisioned data container may then be populated (filled in) via subsequent write operations as the vdisk is filled in with data. While this description is written in terms of a thinly provisioned data container disposed over an underlying file system, it should be noted that other thin provisioning implementations may be utilized. As such, the use of an underlying file system to support a thinly provisioned data container should be taken as exemplary only.

FIG. 9 is a schematic block diagram of an inode structure, i.e., a buffer tree 900, of an exemplary thinly provisioned data container. The (inode) buffer tree structure 900 is created when, for example, a vdisk is first created by the file system as thinly provisioned. In a typical thinly provisioned data container, only the inode 905 is actually written to disk. The remainder of the data container is not written to or otherwise physically stored on the disk(s) storing the data container. Although, the data container 900 includes a completed inode 905, it does not contain indirect blocks 910, 920 or file data blocks 925 (as shown in phantom). Thus, these phantom blocks (i.e., 910, 920, 925) are not generated when the data container is created, although, they will be written to disk as the data container is populated. By only writing the inode to disk when a thinly provisioned data container is generated, substantial time is saved as the number of disk accesses is reduced. Additionally, only the storage space on the disks that is needed to hold the contents of the data container is utilized. Illustratively, the file system makes appropriate space reservations to ensure that the entire thinly provisioned data container may be written to disk. Space reservation techniques are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/423,391, entitled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR RESERVING SPACE TO GUARANTEE FILE WRITABILITY IN A FILE SYSTEM SUPPORTING PERSISTENT CONSISTENCY POINT IMAGES, by Peter F. Corbett, et al.

FIG. 10 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary (inode) buffer tree structure 1000 of a partially filled in thinly provisioned data container that includes original inode 905. Here, indirect blocks 1010, 1020 and exemplary file data block 1025 have been populated (filled in) in response to one or more write operations to the data container. Continued write operations results in filling in additional data blocks, for example, file data block 1125 as shown in the exemplary (inode) buffer tree structure 1100 of FIG. 11. Eventually, when the data container has been completely filled, all blocks, including such blocks as indirect blocks 1220 and associated file data blocks (not shown) will be completed as illustrated in the schematic block diagram of an exemplary inode structure 1200 in FIG. 12. At such time, the thinly provisioned data container has been completely filled in and each block is associated with an actual block on disk.

G. Storage Groups and Storage Pools

The FSM 117 organizes storage, such as aggregates, into a series of logical constructs called storage groups located on a single storage system. Each storage group is associated with a particular class of storage device, such as 15,000 rpm disks or serial ATA attached disks. The FSM also associates storage groups having the same characteristics across multiple storage systems into logical constructs called storage pools. Thus a particular storage pool may identify all storage space within a storage system environment associated with a particular class of storage device. Notably, the storage pool logically decouples (abstract) the storage systems from the users. Similarly, the storage groups abstract the various aggregates (or other storage entities) from the storage devices. The FSM utilizes the storage groups and storage pools to present a unified view of storage to clients. Through management of storage groups and/or pools, the FSM may increase the utilization rate of storage and thereby reduce the amount of wasted storage space. This reduction of wasted and underutilized storage improves the return on investment of the storage system environment. Storage groups and storage pools are further is described in the above-incorporated U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ (Atty. Docket No. 112056-0251), titled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR IMPLEMENTING A FLEXIBLE STORAGE MANAGER WITH THRESHOLD CONTROL.

FIG. 13 is a schematic block diagram showing the organization of aggregates into storage groups in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. Illustratively a first set of disks 1305 are 15,000 rpm disks and organized into two aggregates 1315 A, B, which are further organized into a first storage group 1320A. A second set of disks 1310, which may be a set of serial ATA disks, are organized into aggregate 1315C, which is further associated with a second storage group 1320B. Thus, the FSM may associate high speed storage with storage group 1320A and slower speed storage with storage group 1320B. By associating storage devices into storage groups based on a type of device, the FSM enables additional functionality, such as providing level of service (LOS) guarantees. Thus, for example, the storage in storage group 1320 A, which utilizes 15000 rpm disks, may be associated with a higher LOS in than that of storage group 1320 B, which utilizes slower ATA disks.

FIG. 14 is a schematic block diagram showing the organization of storage groups into storage pools in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. A first storage pool 1405A is logically associated with a plurality of storage groups 1320A, which may be serviced by a plurality of storage systems, such as storage system A, B, C. Similarly, a second storage pool 1405 B is associated with a plurality of storage groups 1320 B which may be serviced by a plurality of storage systems A, C. By utilizing storage groups and storage pools the FSM 117 may serve to abstract the underlying storage mechanisms and generate a unified view of the storage space across all storage systems of, e.g., storage system environment 100. Thus, from a user's perspective, storage pool 1405A presents a view of storage that permits a user and/or storage administrator to ignore the underlying details, such as storage groups, aggregates, and/or physical storage systems. This unified view enables ease of management on the storage administrator's part. Illustratively, storage pool 1405 A may be associated with a first tier of LOS capabilities, whereas storage pool 1405 B may be associated with a second-tier of LOS. The various LOS's may be utilized by the FSM in provisioning storage for optimal use in accordance with a user's intended use of the storage. For example, a user desiring storage for a high bandwidth utilization, e.g., streaming video, may desire a first tier LOS, whereas a user requesting storage for archival backup may need to a lower or second tier level of service. Illustratively, each tier of storage may be associated with one or more LOS's.

In the illustrative embodiment, the FSM queries each storage system for information regarding each of the aggregates served by the storage system along with current utilization rates for each aggregate and storage system. The FSM collects this information to enable construction of the storage groups and storage pools. Illustratively, the information is obtained via remote procedure calls (RPCs) to each of the storage systems by the FSM 117. The FSM stores the current storage group/pool assignments in configuration table 131.

H. Intelligent Provisioning

The present invention provides a system and method for intelligent provisioning of storage across a plurality of storage systems. A FSM manages provisioning of storage for users to thereby enable greater storage utilization. The FSM is illustratively implemented as one or more software models executing on a computer within the storage system environment and having a user interface that facilitates interaction with a user. The FSM organizes storage devices associated with a single storage system and having the same performance characteristics into a logical construct called a “storage group” and further organizes storage groups having identical performance characteristics across storage systems into logical constructs called “storage pools.” Notably, the use of storage pools and storage groups eliminates the need for a storage administrator to locate an appropriate extent of space to be formed when processing storage for the user.

In order to provision storage, the user first logs into the FSM and requests storage space. The user then specifies an amount (a size) of desired space, a format, such as a LUN or NFS share, and, optionally, a LOS for the storage. In alternate embodiments, the FSM may provide for optimized configuration by, for example, automatically selecting certain features such as the LOS based on other parameters. Such a partial auto-configuration may occur by, for example automatically assigning a particular LOS to NFS shares. Furthermore, in alternate embodiments, a user may be able to identify the type of data to be stored on the storage and the FSM will allocate an appropriate LOS for the storage. Illustratively, the LOS is identified using a numeric scale. Thus, for example, the user may specify a high LOS, for certain storage, e.g., streaming video, whereas another user may specify a low LOS, for, e.g., archival/backup operations. The FSM illustratively provisions the storage by dynamically load-balancing storage and data access requests across all of the storage systems within the storage system environment and further selects storage having suitable performance characteristics that meet the desired LOS.

Illustratively, the FSM first identifies all available data containers on which the storage may be provisioned. The data containers are then sorted so that those data containers in certain special modes (described herein) are moved to the bottom of a sorted list. The FSM sorts the data containers by the capability of the storage system serving the data container and by the performance level of the physical storage comprising the data container. Illustratively, the data containers are sorted by free space and by current level of activity directed thereto. The FSM then selects the highest ranked data container and provisions the request storage on the selected data container.

FIG. 15 is a flowchart detailing the steps of a procedure 1500 for the intelligent provisioning of storage across a plurality of storage systems in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The procedure 1500 begins in step 1505 and continues to step 1510 where a user logs into the FSM. The user then requests appropriate storage space, format of storage desired, e.g., a LUN or an NFS share and, optionally, a level of service (LOS) in step 1515. The user may specify a desired amount (size) of storage; however, in the illustrative embodiment, all storage is thinly provisioned, as described above, which results in the FSM being able to allocate space on any appropriate storage pool and, consequently on any available storage system in accordance with the intelligent provisioning technique of the present invention.

Once the user has requested the storage, the FSM provisions the storage in step 1600. This provisioning illustratively identifies the best match of the aggregates within the storage system environment for use in hosting the storage requested by a user. The intelligent provisioning is described below in reference to procedure 1600 (FIG. 16). Once provisioning is complete, the FSM alerts the user of the provisioned space in step 1525 via, e.g., a display in the GUI or the user's console. Illustratively, the alert includes information such as the pathname of the storage and other logical naming information required for the client to access the storage. The user then logs out of the FSM in step 1530 and begins using the provisioned storage space in step 1535. The procedure 1500 completes in step 1540.

Advantageously, the FSM enables rapid and easy provisioning of storage without storage administrator interaction. By organizing the storage into storage groups and/or storage pools, the FSM may easily identify the storage to be utilized. As all of the data containers are generated using thin provisioning, the need for storage administrator interaction to determine appropriate extents is obviated.

FIG. 16 is a flowchart detailing the steps of a procedure 1600 for intelligently provisioning storage in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The procedure 1600 begins in step 1605 and continues to step 1610 where the FSM identifies the available aggregates on which requested storage may be provisioned. Illustratively, the FSM maintains a list of all aggregates and associated storage systems in configuration table 131. Typically, the FSM routinely queries each storage system within the storage system environment to obtain current usage statistics, such as amount of free space, and number of input/output (I/O) operations directed to each storage system and aggregate, etc. Thus, the FSM may quickly determine those aggregates that have sufficient space to accommodate the requested storage. This querying of the various storage systems within the storage system environment may be performed by, for example, sending RPCs calls to each of the storage systems on a routine basis.

During the course of procedure 1600, the FSM generates an ordered list of the aggregates available and works to identify a highest ranked aggregate based on the previously obtained data from querying each storage system to provision the requested storage thereon. Illustratively, each of the steps of sorting (ordering) aggregates orders the aggregates in relation to the previous ordering. Assume, for example, an environment has five aggregates A, B, C, D, and E with aggregates A-D being associated with a high speed storage system and aggregate E being associated with a slower speed storage system. By sorting the aggregates according to capabilities of the storage system serving the aggregate, the aggregates may be formed into two groups, a first group consisting of A-D and a second group consisting of E. A subsequent step of sorting the aggregates by performance level may sort those aggregates in the first group (A-D) separately from the second group. Thus, even if aggregate E had a higher performance level than aggregates A-D, it would be ordered after them due to the previous sorting.

The FSM then, in step 1615, sorts the aggregates that are in certain special modes to the bottom of its sorted list. Special modes may include, for example, a drain mode wherein data is being moved off of the aggregate in anticipation of the deletion of the aggregate, etc. Alternately, the aggregate may be in a reconstruction mode due to, e.g., one or more underlying storage media failures to the aggregate. Then, in step 1620, if a particular LOS has been requested, the FSM sorts the aggregates by the capability of the hosting storage system. Specifically, those aggregates hosted by storage systems with more processing power, i.e., faster processors, etc. are ranked higher than those aggregates serviced by less powerful storage systems. Illustratively, the FSM is configured with an ordering of the types of storage systems within the storage system environment. Similarly, if a LOS has been requested, the aggregates are also sorted by performance level in step 1625. The performance level is associated with a particular LOS associated with the storage pool. Illustratively, the performance level may be associated with a storage group.

The FSM then sorts the aggregates according to free space in step 1630. Illustratively, those aggregates having more free space are ranked higher than those aggregates having less free space. Illustratively, the ordering by free space may be performed by a percentage range of free space, e.g., 0-10%, 11-25%, etc. and not based on a strict number of free bytes ordering. The FSM also, in step 1635, sorts the aggregates by level of activity directed thereto. Illustratively, those aggregates with the less activity directed thereto are ranked higher than those with more activity.

Once the various sortings have completed, the FSM selects the highest ranked aggregate from the list of available aggregates in step 1640 and attempts to provision the requested storage in step 1645. If two or more aggregates are ranked equally, the FSM selects one of the equally ranked aggregates using any arbitrary technique, such as selecting the aggregate with the lowest aggregate identifier or by utilizing a pseudo-random number generator to select which of the equally ranked aggregates to select. This provisioning process may include, for example, the creation of a flexible volume within the aggregate. Illustratively, the FSM sends appropriate RPCs to the storage system to perform the necessary steps for creating and exporting a LUN. Creation and exporting of storage (such as a LUN) is further described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/638,567, entitled USER INTERFACE SYSTEM FOR A MULTI-PROTOCOL STORAGE APPLIANCE, by Brian Pawlowski, et al, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

After the provisioning is attempted in step 1645, the FSM determines, in step 1650, whether a failure occurred during the provisioning process. A failure may occur due to, for example, the failure of a storage system and/or aggregate during the creation process. If a failure occurs, the storage system attempting to generate the provision storage responds to the FSM. If no failure occurred, the procedure 1600 completes in step 1655. However, if a failure did occur, then the FSM selects the next highest ranked aggregate in step 1660 and the procedure loops back to step 1650 where the FSM provisions the storage. Thus, at the completion of the procedure 1600, the FSM has generated and ordered a list of aggregates sorted in accordance with a predefined a set of criteria.

The foregoing description has been directed to specific embodiments of this invention. It will be apparent, however, that other variations and modifications may be made to the described embodiments, with the attainment of some or all of their advantages. For instance, it is expressly contemplated that the teachings of this invention can be implemented as software, including a computer-readable medium having program instructions executing on a computer, hardware, firmware, or a combination thereof. Accordingly this description is to be taken only by way of example and not to otherwise limit the scope of the invention. Therefore, it is the object of the appended claims to cover all such variations and modifications as come within the true spirit and scope of the invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification709/226
International ClassificationG06F15/173
Cooperative ClassificationH04L67/1097, G06F3/0605, G06F3/0665, G06F3/067
European ClassificationG06F3/06A2A2, G06F3/06A4V4, G06F3/06A6D, H04L29/08N9S
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Mar 31, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: NETWORK APPLIANCE, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:TYRRELL, JOHN CHARLES;ROUSSOS, KONSTANTINOS;SMOOT, PETERLOGAN;REEL/FRAME:017763/0307;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060327 TO 20060330